Chief Minister, Mizoram, Shri Lal Thanhawla; Union Minister of State for External Affairs Gen.(Dr.) V.K. Singh and State Minister for Water Resources, People’s Republic of Bangladesh Shri Muhammad Nazrul Islam today graced a two International Seminar at Mizoram University to discuss and deliberate on the important and pervasive role that Mizoram can play in the context of the Look East Policy. The Seminar titled “Mizoram, Gateway toSouth East Asia? What needs to be done?” is being jointly organized byMizoramUniversityand Kolkata based think tank Research Centre for Eastern & North Eastern Studies (CENERS-K) and is supported by the Government of Mizoram, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL). 

Speaking at the Seminar Shri Lal Thanhawla said “The Seminar assumes special significance with recent renewed efforts being made by the Hon’ble Prime Minister in reviving India’s ‘Look East’ policy through its new ‘Act East’ directions for the country and the North-Eastern Region, particularly in the light of inferences being made that the Look East Policy has not really benefitted the North-East in general or Mizoram in particular.” He remarked that the subject to be deliberated upon has a direct bearing on Mizoram’s development. 

Elaborating on the growth of the state, its resources and potentials and pointing to the strategic location of Mizoram he said “Mizoram though land-locked, is ideally positioned, on geographical, commercial and cultural considerations, to become an effective bridge-head of economic and cultural connectivity betweenIndiaand the ASEAN countries through the North East corridor. Mizoram ends whereSouth East Asiabegins. And this bridge-head can lead to the emergence of a new horizon of development for this State, the North Eastern Region and the country as a whole.” 

He further pointed that the only option for the laggard region to come out of the economic backwaters is to link the region’s economy with one of the fastest growing economies i.e. the South East Asian economy. He dwelt on the need to reach out in friendship to our neighbours, conjointly create the infrastructure on either side of the borders, and progressively create much softer borders and go all out to increase commerce and trade. He evinced the support of the State Governments of Tripura,Assamand Manipur, DoNER Ministry and the North-Eastern Council to push for Mizoram as the gateway toSouth East Asia. 

Gen. (Dr.) V.K. Singh delivering the Special Address remarked that keeping in mind the geo strategic location of Mizoram, the Seminar is very relevant and is apt and said that Mizoram is indeed the gateway toSouth East Asia. He pointed that the Act East policy has undergone a change of directions in the last two years as Act East Policy. He said that the government is monitoring the progress of the Kaladan Multi Modal Project and envisages early completion in the best possible manner. Elaborating on the importance of connectivity, backend connectivity as well as connectivity amongst the North Eastern state and outlining the importance of container traffic in the context of trade and commerce he said “The Ministry of Surface Transport is laying special emphasis on the development of road network and rail connectivity in Mizoram and Manipur.” 

Union Minister of State for External Affairs dwelt on the good relations that exist betweenIndiaand the neigbouring countries ofBangladeshandMyanmarand said “Both countries andIndiaare aligned to create business opportunities for their people in all manner possible.” He said Mizoram will have an important role to play and has great scope to create opportunities for the people but for this people, especially the youth need to be empowered through various skill developments so that the people can themselves reap the benefits of the policy and added that it is this capability that needs to be looked into and developed. Pointing to the hydroelectric and tourism potential of the state he said “These resources need to be exploited and harnessed in early time frame while development of small tourism infrastructure and that of rural tourism needs to be taken into consideration.”  While saying that “Terrorists know no boundaries”, he dwelt on the need to curtail any disruptions on development and otherwise by such people and stressed on the need by governments to put robust mechanisms in place to deal with them. 

Delivering the Keynote Address at the Seminar,Bangladesh’s State Minister for Water Resources Shri Muhammad Nazrul Islam said that the North Eastern region is very important forBangladeshand the top priority of his government is opening of the region so that more opportunities are created for the people of both countries. He also pointed to that fact thatBangladeshcan provide the vital connectivity between the North Eastern region and the rest ofIndia. Making a mention of how the riverine transport was the lifeline and main connectivity in the pre-partition days for the people of the North Eastern region, he stressed on the need to redevelop waterways. He said bilateral relations between the two countries have never been so good and credited this to the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi. 

Point to the fact that rivers are the lifeline of his country, he said siltation has affected the usability and navigability of these rivers and emphasis is being laid on dredging them for which preparations have begun he added. He expressed gratitude thatIndiaand its people have honoured the 30 year old riparian treaty with due importance and honesty. He also mentioned thatBangladeshwould soon be constructing the Ganges Barrage for which he evinced the support ofIndiaand invitedIndiato be one of the stake-holders. He said this project will ensure improving the ecological balance in the Sunderbans in both countries while meeting the water needs of the people ofBangladeshin an equitable manner. He said thatBangladeshhas a zero tolerance towards terrorism and would never allowBangladeshterritory to be used for any kind of terrorism or incursions into India. 

 The two day Seminar will delve into to examine the feasibility of Mizoram becoming the Gateway toSouth East Asiaand to recommend what needs to be done for this to bear fruition, to the Central and State Government and civil society.  

Speakers at the Seminar which include serving and former diplomats and bureaucrats, industry experts, academicians and researchers dwelt, discussed and deliberated upon issues of connectivity, industry, energy and power, trade/commerce, transit, required value addition on primary goods, culture, ecology, border management and security, improvement of foreign and interstate relations to facilitate the same, and to solicit views, particularly of the youth, on the entire matter. 

This Seminar was conceived by CENERS – K, a premier think tank based in Eastern India to provide a forum for research discussions and debate concerning development, peace and security in the eastern hemisphere as a whole and the eastern and north-eastern states of India in particular.


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